Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary Doctor of Ministry Thesis-Project
Abstract: The goal of this thesis-project is to provide a deeper understanding of the pastoral counseling challenges faced by rural ministers and to create a resource to aid them in addressing those challenges. This thesis begins by defining rural and painting a picture of the current state of rural America. This is followed up by a survey of rural pastors focusing on the issues and struggles they encounter in the course of their ministry, the results of which show that rural pastors are faced with a large breadth of issues that they do not feel prepared to address as pastoral counselors. This thesis then explores Peter’s calling for pastors to serve as shepherds of God’s flock, including the need for pastoral care, even if it is not easy. Next it explores the array of resources potentially available to rural pastors to help them as pastoral counselors, although few works are available that meet the specific needs of rural pastors. Finally a quick reference counseling guide was put together with rural ministry specifically in mind. This guide addresses five of the most common issues faced by rural pastors: depression, worry, conflict, anger, and abuse. Critical reviews from five rural pastors show that the reference guide would be a welcome help and encouragement to rural pastors.